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Speaking Out

Noisy Night in Neighborhood

This semester is off to a bad start with the loud music that emanated from the new parking garage at 40th and Walnut Street on Sunday evening, September 2 until midnight. As a resident living only two doors down from the garage this was particularly disturbing. Around 10 p.m. my wife called the University Police to request their action in this matter. After struggling to get beyond the dispatcher, the sergeant, who could obviously hear the music over the phone agreed it was loud and excessive. However, he could do nothing regarding this because it was a "university-sanctioned" event. Since when does "university-sanctioned" mean violation of noise ordinances?

The University might consider setting a good example in keeping noise levels down especially at those properties that directly border on the surrounding neighborhood. What makes this event especially aggravating is other groups and students will now assume they too have the right to generate loud noise in the neighborhood since the police will not interfere, especially if they can get their event defined as "university-sanctioned."

I would like to see the University become an active agent in facilitating noise abatement in the neighborhood, not a perpetrator. And when the police are called, they will act in a positive and caring manner and not make the concerned citizen caller feel like a criminal merely for asking that the law be enforced. The Philadelphia noise ordinance does not give any time limits: excessive noise at any time is subject to violation.

Finally, not all neighborhood groups speak for all of the residents of University City. No one asked the couple who lives above me if they wanted to be kept up, not only by the loud music, but also by their very young child who was distressed by the noise. I would even hazard to guess that some of the students in the affected area may have appreciated a quiet Sunday evening.

-- John Andrews-Labenski, Electronics Engineer,
Dept. of Psychology & Walnut St. Resident

NSO Response

Let us first apologize for the inconvenience that our New Student Orientation (NSO) Dance Party caused those residents that live near the 40th and Walnut Street Parking garage. We would also like to provide a bit of background to the event on the evening of Sunday, September 2.

The Dance Party was the culmination of what was a wonderful day of student and community interaction. The day began with our first ever 40th Street Festival, on the field adjacent to 40th Street, between Walnut and Locust, for the freshmen class. The goal of Festival was to introduce new students to the community to which they now belong. Community organizations ranging from The Friends of Walnut West Library to Spruce Hill Community Association gave their time to introduce and seek out new student involvement in their "home away from home,"West Philadelphia. We also introduced the freshmen to local performing artists Denise King, a wonderful Jazz singer, and the eclectic new music group, "The Beach Balls." The entire event was catered by FreshGrocer with appetizers provided by local 40th Street area restaurants, Izzy and Zoe's, Bitar's, and Lee's Hoagies. This event was a real collaboration of the University and the community. It was an effort, not only to introduce Penn students to the surrounding community, but also to encourage them to care about and feel a part of West Philadelphia.

All our social events during NSO are also meant to provide students with positive programming to foster a sense of responsibility as members of the community in general.

As with the Festival, the dance party was a reinforcement of the idea that 40th Street is not a border between two worlds, but a place of dynamic interaction and possibilities for Penn and the community to blend and collaborate.

Again, we apologize and assure you that we will address your concerns when planning events.

--Sean Vereen,
Aliya Ansari,
Rebecca MacDowell,
Christine Jereb,
NSO Coordinators

Penn Police Response

I wanted to provide you the perspective from the Penn Police Department. The event in question was hosted by the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life to provide some 2,000 freshmen a safe and festive event during the Labor Day weekend.

The dance party held on the fourth floor of the parking garage at 40th and Walnut Streets began at approximately 9 p.m. The music for the event concluded at approximately 11:50 p.m. According to our records, Mrs. Andrews-Labenski's call was received by our Communications Center at 10:51 p.m. During the entire three hours that this event was occurring, the only complaint of loud noise received by the UPPD was the telephone call made by Mrs. Andrews-Labenski. Normally, when the UPPD receives complaints of loud parties or loud music, we receive multiple calls regarding the same source of the noise or music. As this was a sanctioned event, we were well aware that the music was to end at a predetermined time. This is not the case for most noise complaints received by our agency.

I can assure you that our officers are sensitive to the needs of our community, and we actively work to facilitate noise abatement, when legitimately warranted. When reports of noise or loud music are received, our officers investigate, and if the noise level is determined to be excessive, those responsible are asked to keep the noise to a level that will not disrupt their surrounding neighbors. Upon receipt of subsequent calls to the same location, a police supervisor is dispatched to evaluate the situation. The supervisor makes a determination to either allow an event to continue, or he or she instructs officers to close the party or event down.

Mr. Andrews-Labenski's statement that "…the police…not make the concerned citizen caller feel like a criminal" is particularly disturbing to me. I have listened to the audiotape of Mrs. Andrews-Labenski's telephone call to our agency and I can state without hesitation that she was treated professionally and with civility by our PennComm staff.

Please understand that this event was planned to occur on a Sunday evening followed by a holiday to minimize the impact upon the residential community. Evidently, the impact was minimal, as Mrs. Andrews-Labenski's call was the only complaint received. I assure you that had the level of noise from this event (or any event for that matter) risen to a level that had caused widespread annoyance and disruption within the neighborhood, our officers would have adjusted the situation accordingly.

-- Thomas A. Rambo, Chief of Police, Penn Police

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 3, September 11, 2001


September 11, 2001
Volume 48 Number 3

Dr. Afaf Meleis--a prominent medical sociologist and specialist in women's health issues--will become the Dean of the School of Nursing in January.
Dr. Richard Gelles--a leading researcher in the study of family violence has been named Interim Dean of the School of Social Work.
Lucy Momjian is now Associate Vice President for Finance and Treasury Management.
Jack Shannon is named Associate Vice President in the Office of the Executive Vice President.
Dr. Battistini, director of Penn Health for Women, dies in a motor vehicle accident.
Convocation 2001: President Judith Rodin and Provost Robert Barchi welcome the Class of 2005.
Council Year-end Committee Reports: Admissions and Financial Aid as well as Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics are both on the agenda of this week's Council Meeting.
Penn moves up in the latest U.S. News rankings of the nation's best universities to its highest ever ranking.
A noisy night in the neighborhood prompted a Speaking Out letter and two responses.
Code Red Alert: Preventing a computer worm is possible with these steps.
The Models of Excellence program wants nominations to recognize staff achievements from the previous academic year.